When you think of Hemp (Cannabis Sativa), the most common connection as of late is associated with the extraction of phytocannabinoids.
Hemp is indeed the most abundant source of CBD, and the majority of compounds we wish to extract are found in the aerial plant parts; primarily the hemp flowers.
However, like any other plant, Hemp also produces seeds and is supported by a stalk. Both of these are considered byproducts in the production of CBD products.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have any use. Rather, each of these sections has a multitude of applications which extend far beyond a single-use each. From Hemp fibres used by the carmaker Bentley, through to seeds cold-pressed for their omega-rich oils used in skincare and soaps.
In this article, we discuss these uses along with visually outline how Hemp is disrupting industries far beyond wellness.
Most plants require a specific set of conditions to flourish and often require maintenance and care, which can quickly become complicated.
From the use of pesticides and other substances to regulate pests through to the need for a specific set of other environmental conditions including humidity and sunshine, conventional agricultural crops are notoriously difficult to grow year over year and sustain a living wage from.
On the other side of the equation, Hemp requires little care; it grows fast and anywhere. It’s naturally resistant to pests, and as a result, it doesn’t require the use of pesticides or herbicides to maintain its growth.
This fact alone means that Hemp can be planted and left to its own devices largely. This flexibility gives farmers the ability to focus on other things and potentially farm a much broader geographical range with fewer resources when compared to alternative crops all while yielding a much broader benefit for both themselves and the environment.
Hemp absorbs more CO2 than it produces across the combined range of its uses (which we will discuss below and as noted in the infographic above).
According to EIHA, a single hectare of Industrial Hemp can absorb 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare. To put that in perspective, while estimates vary depending on tree age, one study from Science Daily suggests that the African tropical rainforests sequester approximately 600kg of CO2 per hectare.
Although, it’s critical to add that the research linked above is based on rainforest estimates and not a plantation of crops grouped to maximise yield. Still, the cost/benefit of the effect of Hemp on green house gasses is abundantly clear.
Given these figures, you don’t need to be a scientist to see the potential of Hemp on a global scale to have a positive environmental impact.
Hemp has been called a ‘pioneer plant’ for its powerful remediation properties.
In short, it acts as a robust filter which can remove toxins and heavy metals from polluted soil. Given that Hemp grows rapidly and anywhere, this use is applicable anywhere in the globe.
A little interesting fact is that Hemp was used as part of the Chernobyl clean up process, growing in soil exposed to high radiation and acting as a natural cleanser for the earth.
The applications for phytoremediation are vast and growing as parts of the earth suffer from man-made pollution and unfortunately in parallel environmental disasters.
Commonly, the use of plants is multifunctional, but none of these potential uses yield as far-reaching benefits as Hemp can and does.
Industrial Hemp can be split into three sections: Seed, fibre/stalk and flowers. Each of these subsections can be utilised in a variety of ways which alone have hundreds or thousands of uses. Combining these, it soon becomes clear that Hemp is as super versatile.
We will discuss the uses of each section of the plant below, but it’s estimated the uses of Hemp are in the thousands of unique applications!
Small, nutritious and packed full of protein these brown seeds are considered superfoods by many.
Hemp seeds contain a similar amount of protein as soybeans, approximately 30%. Additionally, they are classed as whole protein sources, including the nine amino acids required to break down protein effectively.
The seeds are also rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. This is useful because the only source of these acids is through nutrition and are necessary for a balanced diet. The benefits of Omega-3 acids are well established in research settings.
We all know that fibre is another essential component of a balanced diet, but most of don’t consume enough of it. Hemp seeds are an additional natural source to top up fibre consumption, with approx 1.2g fibre per three tablespoons.
Hemp seeds are also often cold-pressed (as hemp seed oil) and used as in skin care products, acting as a natural moisturiser. Note – hemp seed oil is not CBD oil, and cold-pressed seeds contain a negligible (if any) amount of phytocannabinoids.
Historically, Hemp has been grown for its fibrous qualities. Regardless of if that’s for use in the production of rope, clothing and more.
Recently, the applications of Industrial Hemp fibre have become more apparent and much more significant.
We discuss some of the most interesting ones below.
Unbeknown to many is that the automotive industry has already welcome Hemp with open arms.
Bugatti and other supercar manufacturers procure Hemp fibre for use inside luxury cars due to it being a lightweight, robust material which is also economically viable.
While this is a tiny indent in total fibre supply and demand, it’s interesting to see how widespread the uses of the Hemp plant are.
The production of animal bedding derived from Hemp and is sustainable and economical. Commonly found as a base material in bedding used for guinea pigs and rabbits; its demand from petshop retailers has skyrocketed.
If you consider how many guinea pigs and rabbits are kept as pets around the globe, you can quickly conclude that this alone is a considerable sub-niche to develop and grow into a needle-moving industry for the plant.
Yup, that’s right…In your loft, between your walls and anywhere else traditional fibreglass goes you can replace with Hemp insulation.
Traditional insulation such as glass fibre is notoriously difficult to deal with due to its ability to become airborne, impacting your ability to breathe and irritate your skin.
Outside of being challenging to deal with, it also lacks environmental credentials. Being a product of glass and sand heated at over 1600 degrees, it leaves a high and undesirable carbon footprint.
So what’s Hemp got to do with all this? Glad you asked!
As we noted earlier, Hemp is carbon negative when you consider its profile of uses and the fact it absorbs CO2 as it grows. Not only that, but it’s also a powerful natural insulator which isn’t subject to the same constraints as fibreglass, namely when exposed to humidity, it doesn’t cause mould or mildew. Instead, the natural fibres prevent it regardless of the atmosphere as they act as a dehumidifier.
This is critical when you consider that over 40% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are attributed to construction and the heating and cooling of buildings. Hemp is a sustainable alternative which is carbon positive while producing superior levels of insulation when compared to fibreglass.
Hempcrete is a natural and sustainable alternative to concentre for the production of nonstructural walls made from Hemp Shiv (the core fibre of the plant) combined with lime.
While it lacks the compressive strength of concrete, it makes up with the fact it’s carbon negative and provides high levels of insulation while being fire and water-resistant.
While on its own, it’s not possible to turn Hemp into plastic, it can still be combined with traditional plastic to construct bioplastic.
Hemp-derived bioplastics can be moulded into near enough any shape, used as a resin or injected. It’s this versatility which makes it’s potential use all that more interesting.
The use of biofuel has only picked up pace across the last twenty years, as we continue to try and roaster our use of fossil fuels.
In theory, it’s possible to convert hemp oil into biodiesel. Although there are other sources which can do this at a much higher output per hectare when compared to Industrial Help, it’s just another use to add to the set of applications this plant has!
If you’re here, it’s likely you already know about the use of Hemp derived CBD in wellness, so we’ll keep this section short.
Cannabinoids are found in the trichomes glazed across the flowers of the Cannabis plant. This magical dust contains not only cannabinoids, but also terpenes (the aromatic oils found in plants, but abundantly in cannabis).
It’s these phytocannabinoids which are extracted from the Cannabis Sativa plant to produce CBD products such as oils, concentrates, topicals and more.
The flowers can also be vapourised or smoked directly, like traditional marijuana or brewed in a tea.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Nature & Bloom and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention for any disease. Nature & Bloom products have not been evaluated by the MHRA.